Since fully-open adoption began in the early 1980’s, it has continued to increase in popularity. The adoption community has seen that children raised in this environment have thrived, and longitudinal studies confirm how much healthier it is for children.1
Today, over 55 percent of domestic adoptions are fully open.2 That means that the majority of your child’s peers who are also adopted will have relationships with one or both of their birthparents.
A child who is raised in an environment of secrecy receives the unspoken message that the subject of adoption is taboo, and they will continue to have unanswered questions multiply inside them. Children often develop fantasies to explain things they don’t understand or have answers for. If they do not have information about their birthparents, they may have exaggerated fantasies that their birthmother is a princess in a far-off land, or in the other direction, fear that she’s someone very awful.
At the onset of the adoption process, having birthparents involved might seem like an unnecessary complication, but the truth is, your child will always be related to their birthparent. The danger in dismissing this lies in the notion that that if they are kept from knowing her, they may think that as their parents, you are protecting them from something, and assume that there must be something bad about her. Children will eventually leap to the natural conclusion, “I know I came from her, does that mean I inherited something bad too?”
Ultimately, not allowing them to have an open relationship can send a message that something must be bad about their birthparent, or shameful about being adopted, or why else would they have to be kept from them?
Bringing the subject out into the open can normalize the concept of adoption. If a child grows up in an environment where their birthparents and adoption story is easily part of conversation, it can be something they ask about without fear of upsetting their parents.
Through their relationship with their birthmother, they can also hear from her directly about the reasons she sought out an adoption plan and about the story of how she “just knew” that these were the people meant to be the parents of the baby she was growing inside her. This is the most effective way for your child to feel confident that they are meant to be your child.
No one should tell you that adoption is easy, there will always be an extra layer of parenting involved. However, research continues to confirm that openness in adoption has the healthiest outcome for children. Even though relationships can feel complicated sometimes, you are making the decision to maintain a connection with your child's biological relatives because you are putting them first, even if it stretches your comfort zone a little. If you do have a misunderstanding or a glitch in the relationship, reach out to an adoption counselor. A licensed professional who is sensitive to this type of delicate relationship can help reestablish healthy and positive dynamics to preserve the relationship. Lifting the veil of secrecy brings peace of mind to children, provides them with an opportunity to develop a strong self-esteem, and a sense of pride in their adoption story.